First Drive: Volkswagen XL1

MAR 7 2013 BY JAY COLE 5

The recently introduced Volkswagen XL1 is a super efficient, two seat plug-in hybrid vehicle.  To the extreme.

Clearly This Is A Hybrid That Will Get You Noticed

Clearly This Is A Hybrid That Will Get You Noticed

The VW gets an astounding 261 miles per gallon and has an all electric range of  31 miles (both figures are Euro-based, so expect lower US ratings).

All for an estimated $80,000 to $95,000; but that does include cool Lamborghini-style doors, and no rear windshield to speak of.

Hilton Holloway at Autocar, has already been offered a test drive in the extreme plug-in vehicle, and offers his thoughts on the car’s actual on road performance, and what it is like to ride in one.

“Exceptional on the motorway and agreeably flawed in town. It takes a bit of effort to get into the XL1, the sills are very wide and the seats very low, but once you’re inside, it is very comfortable indeed.

The view ahead is panoramic, while the view directly behind is non-existent because there’s no rear window. The rear-view mirrors have been replaced by what looks like a pair of iPhone screens mounted in the door trims – the XL1 is the first production car in the world to have rear-view cameras in place of conventional mirrors.”]

Volkswagen XL1 Interior Can Make For Some Challenging City Driving

Volkswagen XL1 Interior Can Make For Some Challenging City Driving

Mr. Holloway finds that when driving the car in a straight line, the car performs admirably, with enough power to keep up with traffic, despite a 0-60 time of 12.7 seconds.

He also notes the conversion from electric power to the XL1’s tiny .8L (47 hp)  motor is flawless; and often.  Apparently the VW can detect even the smallest incline, at which point the diesel motor spins up to assist the 20 kWh electric motor.  Combined power of the XL1’s two drive modes nets 68 bhp and 103 lb-ft of torque.

As for city driving, he is not as impressed:

“In town, the story is slightly less happy. The ride can be a little brittle and the unassisted steering takes some getting used to. It’s quite hard, say, to whip around a mini-roundabout because the steering weights up considerably. The brakes feel a little dead and are also a little noisy, but that’s a consequence of the lightweight ceramic brake discs.”]

The XL1's Combination of 1,753 lbs And A Cd Of Just .18 Contribute A Lot To The Vehicle's Efficiency

The XL1’s Combination of 1,753 lbs And A Cd Of Just .18 Contribute A Lot To The Vehicle’s Efficiency

As one would expect looking at the photos of the XL1, both the askew 1+1 seating arrangement and trying to look around the A-pillars are a bit of a chore, often leading to a head-bonk until you get used to them.

Where the reviewer really comes away impressed however is on the highway, where the XL1 shines:

“On the motorway, the XL1 is supreme. Despite its tiny footprint and the heavy rain on the Swiss motorway, the XL1 was rock-steady, completely unruffled by passing lorries. It ran very straight and true, requiring virtually no steering corrections. At a steady 62mph, the XL1 requires just 8bhp to make progress – an indication of the car’s remarkably low rolling and air resistance. It also feels entirely happy at 75mph (XL1 has a top speed of 99 mph) and above, and making brisk overtaking manoeuvres.”

As for real world ratings, we know the 261 mpg figure based on the NEDC system is unattainable.   However,  despite a mountain range on test drive, the XL1 still managed to return a  real-world 188 MPG.  Mr. Holland feels that a long highway run could easily net over 200 MPG.


“Overall, the XL1 is quite an unusual experience, but a very satisfying one for any driver who appreciates the brilliant engineering behind the car….Super-early adopters will adore the XL1 – and the chance to hone their driving skills enough to achieve a real-world 200mpg. “

In total, Volkswagen will build 250 copies of the XL1 to start out with (more if demand is there), and VW UK has reportedly already requested 50 left-hand drives be built for themselves.

Volkswagen XL1 Gallery: (double click)


Categories: Volkswagen


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5 Comments on "First Drive: Volkswagen XL1"

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good find Jay. I never expected a test drive so soon. 188 MPG on a long trip is pretty outstanding. That says a lot about this cars MPG in gas mode.

Doesn’t it kind of make you wonder if VW will gradually improve
the beast incrementally and in each category –

Weight will gradually increase as needed to accomodate five passengers
and enough windows to see out of while meeting all safety
requirements. Heavier, less costly building materials must be
administered and this will mean a larger ( and heavier ) range extender.
Some type of glass windows must be integrated – again due to cost.
Tire footprint must increase to be safe on all weather conditions and
to handle the increased weight – with handling matching other
cars on the market.

As each aspect of XL-1 gets honed to fit the mold of a passenger
car that can be sold at a mainstream price, and that can be
maneuvererd by all types, ages and sexes of drivers, the
capabilities and price might approach that of the Volt – which,
of course, already exists and is selling in the tens of thousands
for around $33,000 U.S. .

I guess what I am saying is that the XL-1 is a lab experiment
people with deep pockets can actually buy.

It reminds me of the Bugatti Veyron project, they said they would build it, and so they did. In small quantities.

But the real treat here is all that technology going someday to “conventional” VW’s.

This car is very much in tune with my philosophy (what used to be VW’s old one), namely very small engine and in this case, motor. I don’t need a car with superfast acceleration, just a car that looks good, and goes a long way before you have to worry about refueling it. I wish they would have put in at least a 10 or 15 kwh battery rather than this 5kwh thing.

Exactly that efficient shape with conventional materials, doors and so on for sub 30.000$ and VW would have a buy from me.